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Get Out Of Your Own Way

By Mike McGough

February, 2019

Life is filled with obstacles. Some are real and some are imaginary. They can be big or little barriers that keep you from doing what you want to do, or at minimum, they are impediments to progress that frustrate you along the way. When you push through them, over, around, or under them they can power and invigorate your best efforts. When they keep you from acting or stall your progress, they become excuses and justifications. When an obstacle prevents you from acting or stalls your progress permanently, it becomes your own personal shouldn’t, couldn’t, haven’t, and probably never will rationale for quitting or failing to even try.

To many, life’s obstacles and the excuses they spawn are handy little critters. They provide a way out, a reason to quit, and an ongoing explanation for not even starting anything new. For others, obstacles are real barriers along life’s way, which tend to nag, frustrate, and in time immobilize. And for others an obstacle is a challenge. When these folks encounter a barrier, they ask “Why not” instead of “Why.” Obstacles seem to give them direction, energy, and purpose. These are the doers in life. 

For even the most optimistic and positive thinkers, some obstacles are beyond their control. They are very real, and they are too big, complex, or difficult to be conquered. It’s important that you realistically remind yourself of this reality from time to time. For example, deciding today that you want to pitch the home opener next year for the Pittsburgh Pirates at age 67 with two trick knees may sound impressive, but how realistic is it? However, breaking out an old glove and enjoying some pitch-and-catch in the spring becomes a realistic goal that can be enjoyable and stimulating, while serving as a refreshingly attainable reminder of what once was. 

Of all of the hurdles and problems you encounter in life, the most vexing and potentially troublesome can be the ones you create for yourself. These impediments can become unbelievably effective blockades along your life’s path, and once created and even marginally accepted by you, getting past them can be an arduous and grueling task. However, it can indeed be done.

Think of some of the conversations you may have had with yourself. “I’d love to write a book, but I’m only kidding myself. People like me don’t write books.” “I think I could paint. I have a beautiful picture in my mind that I’d love to put on canvas, but everyone will laugh.” “I’d love to go back and finish college, but at my age it would be impossible.” “I’d really enjoy trying another career, but I’m stuck here, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” Conversations like these are common, all too common, and unfortunately cause many to live on the dark side of the obstacles they create for themselves. As a result they tend to live down to their lowest expectations. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The next time you want to set some goals for yourself, or establish some meaningful resolutions for change in your life, take the time to thoughtfully identify, carefully consider, and purposefully look at the obstacles you may have created for yourself. Yes, goals and resolutions are important, but if you’re not realistically considering the obstacles and barriers that you may have created, getting to any goal or realizing any resolution can be all but impossible.

Think of something you really want to do. You know, that special something you tell yourself you would do, “if only.” Now think about the “if only” part of your special desire, that resolution you want to make, or that goal you want to set. Take your time and carefully determine exactly what is preventing you from acting. Chances are, you’ll find the obstacles you face are, to a large measure, obstacles of your own design and creation. 

The obstacles you build for yourself are the most difficult to deal with, because there’s no one to tell you that you can do something in spite of them. There’s no one in your corner. That’s why it’s so important to identify the barriers and traps you set for yourself. If you put obstacles between you and your goals, they’ll remain there until you decide it’s time to move beyond them and get on with your life. 

Ask yourself two essential questions. What’s the worst that can happen if I give it a try? How much longer am I going to be content living behind my own obstacles? If you’ve got something you really want to do, believe in yourself, get out of your own way, and get at it!

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